Commandments

In those days:
God delivered all these commandments:

“I, the LORD, am your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves
in the shape of anything in the sky above
or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,
inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness
on the children of those who hate me,
down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation
on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
For the LORD will not leave unpunished
him who takes his name in vain.

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.
No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter,
or your male or female slave, or your beast,
or by the alien who lives with you.
In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
but on the seventh day he rested.
That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother,
that you may have a long life in the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you.

“You shall not kill.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife,
nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass,
nor anything else that belongs to him.”
(Exodus 20:1-17)

Scripture Study

20:2–6 The first commandment mandates monotheism. Yahweh demands exclusive adoration from his people and refuses to tolerate either service to other gods (Deut 6:13–14) or the making of idols (Lev 26:1). Together, monotheism and imageless worship make the religion of Israel radically different from the pagan cults of the biblical world (CCC 2084–2132).

20:4 likeness of anything: Prohibits representations of Yahweh in material form, in the image of any living creature (Deut 4:15–18). In view is the danger of fashioning an idol; the commandment does not prohibit such things as literary descriptions of God that make use of anthropomorphic or other figurative language. • The coming of Jesus as the true “image” of God introduces a new economy of worship that transcends this restriction of the Sinai covenant (Col 1:15). Since the Father has made himself visible in the Son (Jn 14:9), the believing Church can rightly depict his image in visible and artistic ways. the water under the earth: Semitic cosmology envisioned a subterranean ocean lying beneath the solid surface of the earth (called “the deep”; Gen 7:11; Deut 33:13; Jon 2:5). This is why the authors of Scripture sometimes describe the world as a three-tiered structure with heaven above, earth below, and a lower region under the earth (Phil 2:10; Rev 5:3). The commandment thus prohibits depicting God in the physical form of anything in the sky, on the earth, or beneath the earth (“water under the earth”), i.e., in the form of anything in the visible created order.

20:5 you shall not bow: Bowing is here understood as an act of worship before an idol. The commandment does not forbid—or even envision—honoring another person with such a gesture.

20:7 The second commandment forbids irreverent use of the divine name, especially in legal contexts where perjury profanes the name of God invoked by oath. Beyond this, to inject the divine name into foul, hateful, or blasphemous speech is to abuse it and to offend the Lord who bears it (CCC 2142–59).

20:8–11 The third commandment requires a Sabbath rest for households and herds. The day is set apart as a memorial of the world’s creation (Gen 2:1–3) and of Israel’s redemption (Deut 5:15). So important is this ordinance that Exodus repeats it six times throughout the book (16:26–30; 20:8–11; 23:12; 31:12–17; 34:21; 35:2–3) (CCC 2168–72) • Christians fulfill the Sabbath rest by observing Sunday rest. Two factors underlie the shift from Saturday to the Lord’s day in the liturgical rhythm of the week: (1) Sunday commemorates the day Jesus rose from the dead (Lk 24:1–5), and (2) the dying and rising of Jesus bring about a new creation (2 Cor 5:17; Rev 21:5) and a new redemption (Eph 1:7; Rev 5:9–10) that surpass the old order memorialized by the Sabbath. Sunday worship can be traced back to the earliest days of Christianity, according to Scripture (Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10) as well as ancient Christian writings (Didache 14, 1; St. Ignatius of Antioch, Magnesians 9, 1; St. Justin Martyr, First Apology 67) (CCC 2175–76).

20:12 The fourth commandment requires children to treat parents respectfully, to obey them faithfully, and to care for them materially (Sir 3:3–7; 7:27–28; Eph 6:1–3) (CCC 2197–2220).

20:13 The fifth commandment forbids the killing of innocent persons (23:7). Instances in which lives are taken in warfare, self-defense, and capital punishment are generally not covered by the precept insofar as other factors that threaten the common good of individuals and societies come into play. Scripture insists that human life is sacred because human persons bear the image of their Creator (Gen 9:5–6) (CCC 2258–83).

20:14 The sixth commandment forbids marital infidelity, which constitutes an offense against God, a violation of spousal trust, and a breach of the exclusivity of marriage. In traditional catechesis, the prohibition covers a spectrum of sexual sins such as fornication, prostitution, rape, incest, etc. (CCC 2331–91). • Jesus broadened the Mosaic definition of adultery to include, not only the act of sexual union with another’s spouse, but also thoughts of lust that arise in the heart (Mt 5:27–28). So too, Jesus declared that remarriage after divorce is a form of adultery so long as one’s first spouse is still living (Mt 5:32; Mk 10:11–12).

20:15 The seventh commandment forbids seizing another’s belongings against his will. Other forms of robbery, including extortion, fraud, and unfair wages, are also prohibited by this commandment (CCC 2401–49).

20:16 The eighth commandment forbids deceptive and dishonest speech. Sins of the tongue prohibited by this commandment include lying, calumny, and perjury (CCC 2464–2503).

20:17 The ninth and tenth commandments forbid desiring another’s house and/or spouse. The wording of these precepts reflects the fact that, in ancient Israel, a man’s wife was considered one of his possessions. • According to the NT, covetousness is a form of idolatry (Col 3:5) as well as impurity (Eph 5:3) (CCC 1456, 2514–50).

Scripture Reflection

“Whoever loves is born of God and knows God” (cf. 1 John 4:7-12). Unfortunately, many Christians think, “If I read the Bible, I’m born of God; or if I go to church, I know God; or if I obey the commandments, I know God.” Yet John says it’s simply about loving. Note that the inverse is true also. “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.”

As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. . . . This I command you: love one another. —John 15:9-14, 17 [2]

When most of us hear the word “commandment,” we likely think of the Ten Commandments. But Jesus speaks of a “new” commandment surpassing and summing up the “ten” of the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21): “This is my commandment: Love one another.” He also says: “The entire law and the prophets is summed up in the two great commandments: to love God and to love one another.”

Perhaps we don’t want to hear this commandment because we can never live up to it through our own efforts. We’d like to whittle it down to a little commandment, like “Come to church on Sunday.” But who of us can say we have really loved yet? We’re all beginners. We’re all starting anew every day, and we’re failing anew every day. Loving as imperfect, egoic human beings keeps us in utter reliance upon the mercy, compassion, and grace of God. We can never fully succeed by ourselves.

It seems God gave us a commandment that we could not obey. Perhaps this is so we would have to depend upon the Holy Spirit. This is the greatness, the goodness, the wonder, the impossibility of the Gospel, that it asks of all of us something we—alone, apart, separate—cannot do! Only by living in love, in communion—God in us and we in God (see John 17:20-26)—do we find, every once in a while, a love flowing through us and toward us and from us that is bigger than our own. And we surely know it’s not “we” who are doing it!

– Richard Rohr

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

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